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  • Apron Sharing

    We held an apron sharing event at TraillWorks this weekend and what fun it was! We had a great group of attendees, all of whom brought an apron or two and shared their stories.

    There were aprons that belonged to grandmothers, aprons made by a grandfather who was a tailor and did all the family sewing, small aprons meant for children and made by children. Now that I'm fascinated by aprons it's amazing to see how many styles and purposes there are out there. Most aprons are obviously made for work, but there are many more that are so fancy one would never do the cooking in them. They are for dress-up, like serving cocktails to company. It's amazing how the stories about our aprons connect us to our family - and collective - memories. I don't think my fascination is going to end anytime soon.






    Jennie and me in our aprons. Mine has seen many years of use - it's stained and has holes in it. Jennie's vintage apron is trés chic, taffeta studded with rhinestones. I hope she'll use it as a subject for a painting one day. I love how they are both pink and grey.






    #2 son surprised me by making an appearance! He was the only guy there and was a really good sport to wear the apron that I hung around his neck. This apron belonged to my dad and was the one he wore at Thanksgiving and Christmas to carve the turkey. My siblings and I all have such vivid and fond memories of Dad in the "dead duck" apron, so when it arrived in my mailbox via my brother, well, I was extraordinarily excited! I'm happy to have pictures of it on my son and happy to know it's still in the family. I need to mail it back to brother pronto, for Thanksgiving!

    You can see that I'm sporting my paint and dye stained art apron, which is my fashion statement of choice these days.

    Thanks to everyone who came and shared their apron stories!


    Until next time -



  • Product Testing

    I'm kind of in limbo on creating new art. I have grand ideas for some larger pieces and for continuing my "Split Circles" series, but somehow life's distractions are getting the better of me. When that happens I try to just get myself in the studio to work on something - anything - and get the flow going again. That usually involves making small pieces that aren't too precious. The small quilts are something I can do that allows experimentation, spontaneity, and trying out new ideas.

    I found some fabric that was the result of an artists' 'play date' a few years back. We were trying out various surface design products that were new to us. I found a pile of smaller pieces on which I was sampling Shiva Oil Paintstiks doing rubbings over textured rubbing plates. One was a green hand-dye that I had covered with a leaf motif. That one attracted me because we are in the middle of autumn leaf season - and so an idea emerged to create a seasonal autumn theme. Swirling_Leaves

    I outline-quilted the leaves to create a background. Then I traced, cut, and fused a variety of maple leaf shapes to the surface. I machine quilted the stems and veins, then bound the edge. This process went fairly quickly and that's the way I like it for the small quilts. Their purpose is to try out a new idea, or even to just get past a block, and I don't want them to feel too precious. For example,   I don't usually do raw edge applique. On my larger, more "serious" quilts I machine satin-stitch all the raw edges, but for this small quilt raw edge is fine. I am pleased with the result. The image has energy and movement - it looks like the leaves are blowing and swirling as they would on a windy autumn day.


    So, now that I had some steam going on the leaf theme I decided to make another quilt. We have a Japanese Red Maple in our yard that has the most beautiful red leaves and that was my inspiration for small quilt #2. I plucked some leaves off the tree and laid them on the printer bed for copying. These are the shapes I then used for tracing leaf shapes onto a variety of red fabrics. I pieced together some batik fabrics to give an impression of the mulched bed where the leaves are falling.

    You may be asking, "So where is the 'product testing" already?" (or maybe not). I'm getting to that........ soon.

    Three years ago I bought a long arm quilting machine in order to get my large quilts finished. They are just too big for me to successfully wrangle under the small opening in a domestic machine. But, for small quilts I usually revert to my domestic. I bought two new tools when I was at the Quilt Odyssey show in July, and now I had the perfect project for trying them. One is called the "Supreme Slider". It's a teflon sheet that lies on the machine bed with a hole for the needle opening over the needle plate. It allows the fabric to slide around easily as you manipulate it for free-motion quilting. The other tool is called a "Quilt Halo" and was designed by Sharon Schamber who is one of the most amazing quilters in the world. She wins all the big prizes - look her up, you will be amazed by her work. The Quilt Halo is a rubberized circle about 8" in diameter that grips the fabric when placed onto it. You place it on the quilt top and use the halo to move the fabric around under the needle. You can watch a YouTube video of Sharon Schamber's Quilt Halo to get a visual on how it works.

    These two products work very well together. Between the grip of the Halo and the slip of the Slider it is so much easier to keep control of the stitch quality and direction. The only place I had trouble was near the edges. When the halo extends beyond the quilt edge it tends to grab and grip the teflon sheet which abruptly stops movement. At the edges I use my fingers to move the quilt around, and for that I used my rubber-tipped quilting gloves. You also have to get used to moving the halo from area to area before the machine foot hits the edge of it. That just involves some practice. I don't know that I'll ever test these out on large quilts. For larger quilts I use my long arm machine.

    Here are pictures - in the top picture you can see the Supreme Slider, the white rectangular piece that lies on the machine bed. Its slippery teflon on top and the bottom surface grips to the extension table. Below you can see that the quilt slips between the Slider and the Halo. Ready to quilt!

    Slider_and_Halo_on_Machine Quilt_Halo_on_Red_Maple_quilt

    The background of the Red Maple Leaves quilt is heavily quilted to create texture. I started with the circles - I'm really hooked on circles - but added some other stitch patterns to create variety. I fused and stitched the leaves in the same manner I did on the first small quilt. The red leaves on the brown background seemed a bit dull as there is not too much value difference. I tried to liven it up a bit by adding some contrast, first with green leaves, then adding smaller leaves in purple, and even smaller leaves in golden yellow.




    By now a whole studio day has gone by and I'm starting to wonder why I am taking so much time on this small piece. I'm frustrated! I decide that the value in this one is in testing out my new products, which was a success. I also had practice time on free-motion machine quilting, which can't hurt!  And every new quilt is an ongoing lesson in design principles, and for me right now that includes refining the use of effective color values.

    I'm actually considering making another one. Three is a nice number for a small series.

    Until next time -


  • Hitting The Mark

    2000 Times

    When my kids were young I read somewhere that you need to say something 2000 times before they "get it". Things like, "don't slam the door" or "no frogs in the house" or "eat your vegetables". Every so often there was a magical moment when you could actually see that they "got it". Our faces would light up and we'd be, like, "High five - 2000 times!"

    My kids are grown up now and there are still a few areas where, evidently, I never did hit the 2000 mark.

    10,000 Hours

    I've also read that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to master a skill. Doing some quick math, that's equivalent to a 5-year apprenticeship of intensive 8-hour days with two weeks vacation a year. I've been sewing since I was nine years old, longer if you include those sewing cards we had as kids.




    Remember those? Pictures on cardboard with holes around the picture that you laced string in and out of? I was good at those - I'm going to count them into my 10,000 hours. But, I digress.....



    However you do the math I'm quite sure I've put in well over 10,000 hours to master my sewing and needle skills. But.... there are always new techniques and materials to learn, so where does that leave me? 10,000 additional hours? I started painting at university, but 5 semesters isn't enough to reach 10,000 hours. Same with Italian - approaching fluency but not there yet. If I quit sewing I could put in more time painting and speaking Italian - tempting, highly tempting.

    30 Days

    They say it takes 30 days to build a new habit. If you want to create a new habit (or lose an old one) you need to repeat it for 30 days in order to embed the pattern.

    Soooo......... do I need to make 2000 quilts in a series? Or put in 10,000 more hours on this new idea? Or how about getting myself in the studio for 30 days straight.........

    When do I hit the mark?

    Just contemplating my stats.

    Until next time -


  • Gallery Tours

    I've been gallery hopping and thought you might enjoy the chance to see some art exhibits from the comfort of your own computer!

    "Two Sides to Every Story": An Exploration of the Apron

    I've been talking a lot lately about the two-woman exhibit at TraillWorks Gallery - "Two Sides to Every Story" - an exploration of the apron. Jennie Schaeffer, painter and gallery owner, created a narrated video that takes you on a gallery tour with some background on how the idea for our exhibit first came about. She also talks a bit about several of the artworks in the show - her paintings and my quilts. If you can't travel to New Jersey, or, if you want a preview before visiting the gallery in person, then sit back and take a virtual tour. The show remains up through November 27, 2010 and of course all the work looks much better when seen in person!




    Quilt = Art = Quilts

    Another gallery tour you might enjoy is the Quilts=Art=Quilts juried exhibit now hanging at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn NY. Mark and I traveled up this past weekend to attend the opening reception. What a great exhibit they put on! This is my second year to have the honor of one of my quilts hanging among the amazing quilt art. This year they hung my quilt on a very prominent wall - that made me very happy! I had the opportunity to talk a little about it at the Director's gallery walk on Sunday afternoon. Viewers seemed to genuinely like my quilt, "Little Peace In 2 4 U". Somehow, after I left, I even liked it better myself! When you take the digital tour, my quilt can be seen on page 3, on the far wall, in the left of the photo. I also like the view of it on page 8 and the juxtaposition of it with the quilt in second gallery room. Isn't it interesting how we've both use a similar construction to create a sense of rhythm and movement. I'm sorry that I can't remember the other artist's name, despite my search through the show list. Q=A=Q is up through January 9, 2011.

    "Little Peace In 2 4 U", 37" x 59.5"
    © 2010 Martha C. Hall

    I do hope you enjoy the virtual tours. Better yet, get yourself to either of the exhibits to see all the work up close and personal - so much better that way!

    Until next time -


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